Monday, October 1, 2012

'Homeland' Premiere Review - 2.01 The Smile

        On the season premiere of Showtime's Homeland, a former asset threatens Carrie's peace as she is brought back in to the agency; Brody learns from a reporter that Abu Nazir may not be happy with his nonviolent approach; and Dana accidentally reveals a secret about her father.

        The second season opener proved once again why this is such a great series and why it deserves every bit of critical acclaim that it has received. The show is dealing with the aftereffects of last season's finale while at the same time reinventing itself with a whole new Middle Eastern plot.
        It felt like it was almost too much plot-based conditions in order to get Carrie back involved with the agency. Saul and Estes have to reach out to her because there is this unknown asset who will only talk to her. It is a plot device because Carrie is at her best when she is struggling with the fine line between her sanity and her devotion to this high risk career. That balance is what made her such a compelling character and Claire Danes' performance so powerful last season. For the first half of this episode, we see her quiet and content - which is good for her as a human but not as strong as a dramatic centerpiece. When she is brought back in to the action, that is really when we see the fire reignite as the chase scene and her subsequent smile upon escape were the best acted moments from the entire premiere.
        Similarly, as Carrie is being reintroduced to the agency, Brody is being pressured into returning to his dangerous and destructive terrorist ways. In last year's finale, Brody got Abu Nazir to agree to him influencing the country from the inside which was a great way to justify keeping him alive this year but probably too psychological and quiet for his arc this year. The premiere has set up a far more interesting boxing match as Brody has to steal information from Estes under the threat that Nazir could do something to him. His decision to go through with it raises the tension and stakes for him and will shape his conscience and his moral decision making for the rest of this season. The introduction of the new journalist character also felt a lot like a plot device but she was able to push Brody on this dramatic path so I can't be too upset with it.
        The most polarizing character on this series is Dana. Fans either hate her for always being a bratty and annoying teenager while others love her and how she brings out a different side in her father. Both sides of her character are evident in most episodes, so it is high-wire act trying to keep her somewhat likable. Yes, she still does have her annoying moments at the start of the episode but the scenes at her new school and with her father at home and in the concluding moments were very well done. She is still highly necessary in the narrative (unlike her brother). The reveal of Brody being a Muslim to Jessica is huge and yet this show handles it at the right time in the right, most realistic manner.
        While the premiere wasn't the most engaging and thrill-seeking episode that Homeland has ever produced, it effectively does its job of bringing the characters back to the dramatic stakes that the actors succeed in while keeping things different enough to keep us anxiously waiting for next Sunday to come faster.

So what did everyone think of the premiere? Excited for the rest of the season? Still happy that the show, Damian Lewis and Claire Danes won at the Emmys? Share your thoughts in the comments.